I Think My Child is Autistic — Early Interventions to do Now (with Kids Five and Older)

Annie Newman
5 min readNov 15, 2022


Sometimes, an autism diagnosis isn’t suggested until your child starts struggling in school. I’ve seen multiple stories of people not getting diagnosed until high-school, even! If you and your child are at this stage, fear not: there are things you can do for your older child to make their life easier starting right now, while you are waiting for the official diagnosis. Again, parents of younger children, I encourage you to read this article, too, as your child will soon be in this age group and there are valuable insights to be learned to support your growing child.

Declarative Language

One of the most life-changing books I’ve read is Linda K. Murphy’s Declarative Language Handbook.* I highly recommend it. In a nutshell, declarative language focuses on taking the demand or question out of your communications with your child. You see, many children with autism have a fight-or-flight response to directives and requests. Even a question as simple as “do you want pepperoni on your pizza?” can send their nervous system into overdrive, making them combative and contrary for seemingly no reason.

It sounds impossible to overcome at first, I know. How can you expect anything from your child if you can’t ask them a question? But fear not, it is easier than it sounds, with a little practice. Taking our pizza example from above, simply stating “I’m going to get pepperoni on my pizza,” and then leaving a pause, will often lead to a child saying something like “I just want cheese.” If you want to see a more in-depth story about what declarative language looks like, you can read about our first day of in-depth declarative language use here. Changing your language in this way will make your child less combative and more open to further changes and interventions, I promise. I’ve seen it first-hand in my own household.

Special Interests

Much the same as meeting a younger child where they are at through play, meaningfully engaging in your older child’s special interests will build connection and open pathways to further interventions. Do you have a kid who is super into Minecraft, Roblox, or Pokemon? Show an interest in it, too! Get a conversation started! Maybe even play a round of the game! A previously recalcitrant child may suddenly become very chatty. Once you have built up a connection over whatever the special interest is, you can look for ways to incorporate it into learning opportunities — either academic or social. Perhaps finding (or helping to facilitate) a Pokemon club will gain your child access to an approachable friend group, scaffolding the skills they need for social interactions. Robux (the Roblox currency) provides a myriad of opportunities for math building skills, from simple arithmetic to advanced budgeting. Go slow, be authentic, and look for opportunities, because I am sure they are there!

Emmy went through an animal headband phase. Was it a sensory thing or just a kid thing? I’m not sure, but we let her do it since it seemed to help her mood.

Continued Sensory Support

Don’t forget that sensory differences remain in older autistic children as well as autistic adults. Sometimes children who haven’t had their sensory needs being met may need help identifying exactly what has been bothering them. Simply talking about feelings and stressors in a matter of fact way can help. Emmy,** my oldest, hates the down-vents at the opening to many stores with automatic doors. Sometimes they catch us by surprise and she gets upset. I’ll say something like, “Wow, that surprised me! I don’t like surprises like that! It was loud and hurt my ears but now I’m fine. Good thing we know it’s there now so we can cover our ears when we go back out.” Identifying the stressor and validating the emotion (instead of saying “oh you’re overreacting” or “just get over it”), plus working with them to create a management plan, can go a long way towards empowering your child.

I also encourage you to let your child hold on to younger comforts for longer. If your fourteen year old still wants a lovey, let them carry it. Taking it away will just add to their stress. If they find joy in My Little Ponies or Sesame Street, don’t stop them from watching it. Kids in general have to grow up so fast, so enjoy having yours stay little, longer. Remember my question from my last article? When my daughter is engaging in autistic behavior I ask, “Is this hurting anyone?” And if the answer is “no,” then I let her continue. Carrying a lovey around as a teenager may get a few stares, but again, that’s their problem not you and your child’s.

Talk About It

If your child has the communication skills available to them, I think it’s a good thing to talk as a whole family about their autism, or why you are seeking diagnosis. Do this in a matter of fact way and be sure not to attach any shame to the diagnosis. You wouldn’t hold it against your child if they got a strep diagnosis or needed glasses, would you? We treat autism the same way in our family: just something that makes Emmy unique and sometimes requires a little extra help. This can go a long way towards empowering your child to understand their own needs and advocate for themselves. It also normalizes autism both in your family and the broader community. With as many as one in forty-four kids being diagnosed with ASD, we need more people to be more comfortable with it, because it is everywhere! More and more kids are getting diagnosed with autism as we are better able to identify it, and we’ll talk about what that diagnosis process looks like in my next article.

*Starred links are affiliate link — thanks for helping a mama out!

**Names have been changed.

Annie Newman is a substitute teacher, mom, and aspiring children’s book author raising two children: one neurotypical and one autistic. You can also follow her day-to-day learning on Instagram and on Tiktok.



Annie Newman

Two kids, one NT and one Autistic. On a learning and therapy journey that is constantly evolving.